Five tips to upgrade your WFH space

The pandemic turned everyone’s working lives upside down, but that doesn’t mean we’re all eager to get back to office life. Many workplaces and individuals have come to see benefits in remote and hybrid working and are looking to make WFH a long-term change.

But if you’re working from home for the long haul, it’s high time you started to get comfortable. So whether you’ve been perched at the dining table or you’ve been lucky enough to have your own home office, here are some ideas from the experts about making your WFH space a joy to use.

Make some dedicated space

Being able to separate your work and home life is essential if remote working is going to be a long-term arrangement. Studies suggest many home workers find this separation hard to manage, taking fewer breaks and finding themselves on duty all the time. Having a separate space you can close the door on is one solution. But designer and author Ingrid Fetell Lee says even people living in small flats can free up some headspace at the end of the workday. “Simply having a basket or closet to tuck your laptop and papers into at night will do the trick. Creating a physical boundary will help you reset your mind and reclaim your home as your home,” she writes on the TED blog.

Maximise the light

When you’re setting up your workspace, trying to find a bright spot in your home. Natural light is key for alertness and productivity – it can even help you sleep better later at night, because daylight keeps our natural sleep patterns regulated. Workers sitting next to a window got 173% more white light exposure and slept for an extra 46 minutes every night, one study found. “Even if you’re looking at an air shaft—as I did in one of my early apartments—natural light can still make a huge difference,” says Donald Rattner, an architect and author of My Creative Space. A strategically placed mirror can make the most of the light by bouncing it around the room.

Set up an ergonomic workstation

If you’ve been working hunched over at the dining table since last March or sprawled awkwardly on your bed, now is the time to invest in some dedicated furniture – your back will thank you for it. To avoid stresses and strains, adjust the seat so your elbows are bent at 90 degrees or slightly more so your forearms slope down towards your keyboard, physical therapist Dr Nina Geromel tells CNBC. Your monitor should be exactly an arm’s length from your seating position and your eyes looking straight ahead should land on the top edge of the screen.

Add some plants

Houseplants don’t just look good and add a touch of nature to your home. There’s evidence that they’re good for your health and concentration too. Research by the University of Exeter found that productivity jumped 15% when plants were introduced to a formerly spartan office. “If you are working in an environment where there’s something to get you psychologically engaged, you are happier and you work better,” says Dr Chris Knight, who led the study. Other research suggests they can reduce carbon dioxide levels by up to 25%, giving you fresher air and keeping you focused.

Invest in some noise cancelling headphones

Whether it’s your flatmate on his Zoom calls or a neighbour doing a spot of unexpected DIY, we’re all had to learn to tune out distractions. That can be harder at home, where there isn’t the background hubbub of the office and unexpected noises stand out more than ever. One solution is noise cancelling headphones, which let you cut out distracting noises and replace them with music, relaxing ambient sounds or white noise. Psychologist Art Markman writes in Fast Company that these kind of sounds can “decrease the chance that unexpected noises will attract attention and become a disruption. Studies suggest that white noise can be particularly good for people who are prone to distraction, such as those with ADHD.”